Those 70ish girls…98 is just a number

Four years ago while Kip and I were on an RV trip in the northeastern part of the country, we stopped for the night at a little RV park in Ohio. Kip mentioned that he thought Ron Spahlinger’s parents lived in Ohio. Ron and Barbara are friends of ours and live near us in the Mabank, TX area.

Kip decided to give Ron a call and find out where in Ohio his parents lived. As it happened, they were only about a 45 minute drive from where we were staying. Ron’s brother, Rick and his wife, Rita live next door to Ron’s and Rick’s mom and dad. Ron gave us Rick’s phone number. (That’s a lot of Rs.) After talking with him, we decided to stop by and meet everyone. We had no idea what was to come.

During that first visit we sat on Fran’s and Merrill’s porch, which overlooks the beautiful Lake Milton, and visited for a couple of hours. Rita was gone that day, but Rick, Fran and Merrill made us feel so welcome. We talked about our families, current and past events, and a little about politics. By the time we left, Kip and I felt we had been blessed with some pretty great new friends.

Kip and I with Fran and Merrill on their porch in 2018
Rick, Kip, Merrill, and Fran in 2018

This time when we planned our trip,  we knew we wanted to stop and see Fran and Merrill along with Rick and Rita.

Rick had a wonderful breakfast including scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, and toast waiting for us when we arrived. Fran had set a beautiful table and prepared hot coffee. After breakfast, and since it was Sunday, we all watched the live stream of our church in Mabank’s service. Ron was directing the choir, and we saw Barbara sitting in the congregation. Fran and Merrill watch every week and said they know where Kip and I sit and look for us each Sunday. Since we should tell the truth here, any of us watching from Lake Milton would be stuck for an answer if asked what the sermon was about because we talked all the way through it.

Fran’s table set with beautiful china

A while back, our church advertised the position of choir director. Fran has a great sense of humor and as a fluke, she sent an elaborate resume and applied for the job. She and Pastor Dan along with Lance, our church administrator, went back and forth discussing salary, housing requirements, and other conditions of employment. The negotiations broke down, but it really was the church’s loss as Fran is an accomplished musician. In fact, the whole family can sing and play several instruments.

Fran told us about her years teaching children with a mental disability and regaled us with fun stories about her kids growing up and their various musical talents. As we were looking at all of the family mementos and pictures, Kip asked Merrill about the photos and other WWII memorabilia he had displayed. Among various other things was a model of a B17 airplane. Merrill was a navigator during the war and flew on numerous missions over Natzi Germany. It’s not often you get to talk with a WWII Veteran these days.

There is an American Association of Rosie the Riveters and Fran is a Rosie. The association honors women who were employed in an industry or agency that was directly related to the war effort or employed in a capacity usually held by a man, therefore releasing a man for military duty. Decendants of Rosies are Rosebuds.

After we were finished not watching the church service, Rick and Rita took us for a drive around Lake Milton. We got to see where Fran and Merrill raised their family and the church several family members attended and some, including Rick’s and Rita’s daughter, were married in. We passed by the farm Rick’s and Ron’s grandfather owned and the house that their aunt and uncle and family lived in back in the day. Rita lived in the area, too and we saw the house she and Rick built before building one next door to Fran and Merrill. Rick told us he had a special surprise and took us to a farmhouse that had a stand full of sweet corn. Kip and I bought several ears and finished it all off in two days.

Rick and Kip picking out corn.
A sign near the farm with the corn
Kip got to see another covered bridge
The home where Fran and Merrill raised their kids still looks pretty good!

The day wasn’t over, yet. Kip and I were treated to some first class entertainment. Fran played the electric keyboard…her foot going a mile a minute on the pedal while her nimble fingers flew over the keys. Rick played a mean guitar and Kip and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to old favorites such as, “Has Anybody Seen My Girl,” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

Kip and I brought one of those good old Walmart cakes and after listening to the wonderful music, we had dessert. Much too soon, it was time to say goodbye. When we got in the car to leave, we could see Fran waving to us from her kitchen window. I told Kip I thought I was going to cry. I looked at him and saw a tear in his eye.

It was a wonderful day. Oh, did I mention that Fran and Merrill are the same age. They are a true testament to the fact that 98 is just a number.

The cake
I think this is a great picture of Fran and Kip.
Rick, me, Fran and Merrill…Rita escaped photo opportunities.
We love these two very special friends

9 thoughts on “Those 70ish girls…98 is just a number

  1. Anonymous October 28, 2022 / 5:24 pm

    Enjoyed seeing this post. We met them at Aqua Isles, LaBelle Fl. And found out that in Ohio we live only about half hour away from Craig’s Beach. They live right across from there. Everyone loved them. Ken and Helen Brigham


    • Mary Francis McNinch October 28, 2022 / 8:30 pm

      What a small world. I passed your comment on to Fran and Merrill’s daughter-in-law. I know she will make sure they see it. Thank you so much!


  2. Mary Francis McNinch October 26, 2022 / 6:40 pm

    Thank you so much for your nice comment. I will pass it on to Fran’s daughter-in-law.


  3. Anonymous October 26, 2022 / 2:51 pm

    We met Fran and Merrill in Florida where we all spent our winters.Fran is a wonderful host and 8 of us girls played Bunco and when it was Fran’s turn to host, she made the most delicious cucumber sandwiches. She always played piano when we had gatherings at the clubhouse. They are a very remarkable couple .


  4. sanjuan831 October 26, 2022 / 11:50 am

    Good pics! Good friends! Good food! Good Times!


  5. grinchy44 October 26, 2022 / 10:57 am

    Look like you may have put on a couple of lbs.


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